Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Christiansted National Historic Site


Christiansted National Historic Site, which includes the elegant buildings and eighteenth-century fort along the waterfront on St. Croix Island, provides a link to the days when sugar was king and the Danes ruled the area we now call the Virgin Islands.

Christiansted National Historic Site
©National Park Service
Christiansted National Historic Site recalls the Danish rule of St. Croix Island.

Nearly 250 years after Columbus came upon an island in the New World and named it Santa Cruz, the Danish West India & Guinea Company bought St. Croix from the French and began planting sugar. Dozens of sugar factories sprang up, and the settlement of Christiansted was established in honor of King Christian VI. The population soon reached 10,000, of which nearly 9,000 were slaves imported from West Africa.

The Christiansted National Historic Site preserves seven historic buildings, including the Danish West India & Guinea Company Warehouse, built in 1749. That same year, a fort was completed to protect the new town from pirates, privateers, and slave uprisings. The island's first governor, Frederick Moth, envisioned a town with boulevards, promenades, and handsome buildings, like the beautiful city Christiania (now Oslo, Norway). The graceful architecture, spacious interiors, and arcaded sidewalks in Christiansted reflect Moth's vision and the growing wealth of the citizenry.

Between 1760 and 1820 the economy boomed. St. Croix became the capital of the "Danish Islands in America" and home to royal governors. The Government House, completed in the 1830s for governors to conduct business and hold receptions, has been restored to its 1840s appearance. At the 1830 Customs House, the government collected duties on imports and exports after they were inspected and weighed in the Scale House.

Two churches, the Lutheran Church built in 1744 and the Steeple Building from 1753, still grace the waterfront. The Steeple Building now houses a museum, which contains one of the largest archaeological collections in the Caribbean. By 1848, the island's golden years were coming to an end. Natural disasters, competition from beet sugar, and the abolishment of slavery all contributed to the economic collapse of St. Croix.

Clash of Cultures

The first skirmish between Europeans and native people of the New World took place in the water just off St. Croix. Columbus reached the island on his second voyage in 1493 and named it Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). He saw that the island was inhabited, so he sent some crew members to shore to "have speech with the natives." A canoe of Caribs met the boat, but attempts at communication failed, and a fight soon broke out. The Spaniards, two of whom were wounded, killed one Carib and took the rest captive

Christiansted National Historic Site Information

Address: 2100 Church St., #100, Danish Custom House, Christiansted, VI
Telephone: 340/773-1460
Hours of Operation: Open daily 8 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. except Thanksgiving and Christmas
Admission: $3; children under 16 free

Learn more about these other national historic sites:

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic SiteClara Barton National Historic Site
Fort Larned National Historic Site
Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
Adams National Historic Site
Edgar Allen Poe National Historic SiteFort Raleigh National Historic SiteHampton National Historic SiteLincoln Home National Historic SitePuukohola Heiau National Historic SiteTheodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic SiteEdison National Historic SiteFort Scott National Historic SiteHarry S. Truman National Historic SiteLongfellow National Historic SiteSagamore Hill National Historic SiteThomas Stone National Historic Site
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Eisenhower National Historic Site Fort Smith National Historic Site Herbert Hoover National Historic Site Maggie L. Walker National Historic SiteSaint Paul's Church National Historic SiteThomas Stone National Historic Site
Boston African -American National Historic Site Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic SiteFort Vancouver National Historic SiteHome of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic SiteManzanar National Historic Site

Saint-
Gaudens National Historic Site

Touro Synagogue National Historic Site
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Eugene O'Neill National Historic SiteFrederick Douglass National Historic SiteHopewell Furnace National Historic SiteMartin Van Buren National Historic SiteSalem Maritime National Historic SiteUlysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site Ford's Theater National Historic SiteFrederick Law Olmsted National Historic SiteHubbell Trading Post National Historic SiteMary McLeod Bethune House National Historic Site Saugus Iron Works National Historic SiteWeir Farm National Historic Site
Charles Pinckney National Historic SiteFort Bowie National Historic SiteFriendship Hill National Historic SiteJames A. Garfield National Historic SiteMc Loughlin House National Historic SiteSewall -Belmont House National Historic SiteWhitman Mission National Historic Site
Chicago Portage National Historic Site
Fort Davis National Historic SiteGloria Dei Church National Historic SiteJimmy Carter National Historic SiteNinety Six National Historic Site Springfield Armory National Historic SiteWilliam Howard Taft National Historic Site
Christiansted National Historic SiteFort Laramie National Historic SiteGolden Spike National Historic SiteJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic SitePalo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site Steamtown National Historic Site

To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.